Judas: A Biography by Susan Gubar - review by Frederic Raphael

Frederic Raphael

‘The One Wanted Most’

Judas: A Biography


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The Gospels are bad news for Jews. The synoptic trio – composed by two Jews and the Gentile Luke – seem, by their quasi-convergence, to validate a narrative proving the treachery of Judas Iscariot. Jesus is said to have been crucified as a result of pressure on Pontius Pilate by ‘the Jews’, whose alleged cry of ‘His blood be on our heads and on our children’s’ has been a you-asked-for-it justification for sanctimonious malice, ghettoisation, pogroms and, eventually, genocide.

St John’s Gospel puts a poetic capper on the story by advancing Judas Iscariot as the archetypal Jew, who will do anything for money (Karl Marx’s gospel said much the same). The diabolisation of Judas serviced the ejection of the Jews from their supposed position as Yahweh’s Chosen People. They were then replaced in a renovated God’s favour by Christians, who alone were eligible for salvation. The Church Father Tertullian included among the pleasures of the Saved that of having front-row seats from which to relish the endless barbecue of the unbelieving, Judas in particular.

As the uncited Geza Vermes has shown, with patient precision, in his The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, the message and preaching style of Jesus of Nazareth are of a piece with Jewish texts and ideas current in the first half of the first century AD. Jesus may have

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